Let’s face it; we all have those days where we’re not on our A-game. One minute you’re hustling to get your morning coffee, and the next, you see your car keys resting on the driver’s seat while the car doors are locked. It’s a frustrating scenario that can throw the best of us off our schedule. So, what can you do if you find yourself in this predicament? Stick around because in this blog post, we’ll explore your options when you’ve locked your keys in the car.
Break It Down: Why Did This Happen?
First off, let’s take a quick look at why this might have happened. Our brains are miraculous things, but they can sometimes trip up over the simplest tasks when we’re busy or distracted. It’s called inattentional blindness — a psychological lack of attention not associated with any vision defects or deficits. When you’re juggling multiple tasks, your brain may fail to process an action as important as taking your keys with you when exiting the vehicle. As frustrating as it is, it’s a human error we’re all prone to.
First Steps to Take
The initial reaction may be to panic, but keep in mind it’s a problem that can be fixed. Yes, it’s inconvenient and potentially embarrassing, but take a deep breath. It’s not the end of the world!
Check All Doors and Windows
Before you start considering drastic measures, make sure to check all doors and windows. In the hustle and bustle, you may have forgotten to lock one of the other doors or left a window slightly ajar. If you’re lucky, you may be able to reach in and unlock the door.
Look for Spare Keys
If all doors are locked and windows shut, the next step is to look for spare keys. If you’re at home, that’s great. If you’re out, you might want to phone someone who could bring them to you. If you’re far from home or don’t have a spare key, don’t worry, there are still options available.
No Spare Key? Here Are Your Options
Roadside Assistance or Car Insurance Coverage
Many auto insurance policies and car manufacturers provide lockout services. If you have roadside assistance through your car insurance, now is the time to use it. If you’re not sure, check your policy or call your insurance provider. Some policies may require that you call from the location where your car is, so make sure you’re safe and ready before placing that call.
Call a Locksmith
If you don’t have access to roadside assistance or if it’s not included in your insurance policy, your next best bet is to call a professional locksmith. Locksmiths have the tools and knowledge to unlock your car without causing damage. Costs for this service vary depending on your location and the complexity of your vehicle’s lock system.
Use a Lockout Tool or Slim Jim
Caution: Only consider this if you’re familiar with car mechanisms or desperate. A lockout tool, like a “Big Easy” or a “Slim Jim,” can be used to unlock a car door. But beware: these tools can damage your car’s electrical system, airbags, or locks if not used correctly.
In extreme circumstances, such as a child or pet locked inside the car, call your local non-emergency police line or even 911. They may have tools to unlock your vehicle or, in a worst-case scenario, will break a window to ensure the safety of the person or animal inside.
Preventing Future Lockouts
While the tips above can help if you’ve already locked your keys in your car, the best remedy is prevention. Here are a few tips:
Keep a spare key somewhere safe. A magnetic box can be placed somewhere on your car, or you could give a spare key to a trusted friend or family member. Some people even keep a spare house key in their wallet for these occasions.
Many newer vehicles have keyless entry or a digital keypad on the door. This technology allows you to open your car using a code. Some even have smartphone applications that can unlock your car.
Develop a routine for exiting your vehicle. Make it a habit to have your keys in your hand before you lock and close the door.
Use a sizable, colorful key ring or a keychain that can easily be noticed if left behind.
Consider adding a lockout service to your car insurance policy. While there may be an extra cost, it can provide peace of mind and be a lifesaver in a moment of crisis.
Advanced Techniques and Devices to Unlock Your Car
Now that we’ve covered the basics of what to do when you lock your keys in the car, let’s take a deeper dive into some advanced techniques and devices that can potentially unlock your car. Remember, it’s crucial to handle these situations responsibly to avoid causing any damage to your vehicle.
Professional Locksmith Tools
Locksmiths have access to several professional tools to assist with car lockouts. Understanding how these work can provide insight into the process a locksmith will use if you find yourself needing their services.
Big Easy Lockout Tool
The Big Easy is a specialized tool designed to unlock car doors without the risk of damaging the door or window. The device works by prying the door away from the car’s body to create a small gap. A plastic wedge is then inserted to keep the gap open while the Big Easy rod is used to push or pull the car’s unlock button or lever.
Long Reach Tools
Long reach tools are another common device used by professionals. These tools are essentially long rods that are slipped through the gap between the door and the car body to either press the unlock button or hook and pull the door handle.
Air wedges are inflatable tools used in combination with long reach tools. When deflated, they’re inserted into the door gap; once inflated, they create enough space for the long reach tool to maneuver.
High Tech Solutions
With the advent of modern technology, there are high-tech solutions available that can potentially save you from a lockout situation.
Many car manufacturers now offer companion smartphone apps that can unlock the car remotely. Examples include the Tesla app, BMW’s ConnectedDrive, and the OnStar RemoteLink app for General Motors vehicles. If your vehicle has this feature, ensure the app is installed and properly set up on your phone.
Key Fob Remote Battery
If you have a key fob remote that’s not working, it might just be that the battery is dead. In this case, you can often still unlock your car manually by removing the metal key from the fob. If you didn’t know your fob had a manual key, now’s the time to check!
Before trying these DIY methods, it’s important to note that they can potentially damage your car and should be used as a last resort.
Tennis Ball Method
Some people swear by the tennis ball method, although its effectiveness is widely debated. This method involves creating a small hole in a tennis ball, placing it over the keyhole, and pushing. The idea is that the air pressure will force the locking mechanism to unlock. However, most experts argue that this method is more of a myth.
Rod and Screwdriver Method
This method involves prying the door open slightly with a screwdriver to insert a rod or straightened coat hanger to manually flip the lock. This method has a high risk of damaging your car and should only be used in desperate situations.
Locking Your Keys in The Trunk
If you’ve locked your keys in the trunk, it can be a bit trickier. The best approach here is to unlock the main part of the car and then use the trunk release lever or button. If your car doesn’t have a trunk release button or the button is disabled when the keys aren’t in the ignition, you’ll likely need to call a professional.
So there you have it. While locking your keys in your car can be a stress-inducing experience, it’s important to remember that you have options. Whether it’s calling for roadside assistance, reaching out to a locksmith, or using a lockout tool, there’s always a way to resolve the situation.
In the end, the most valuable step is to try and prevent the situation from occurring again. Keep a spare key handy, maintain a consistent routine when leaving your vehicle, or invest in a car with keyless entry to avoid the dread of seeing your keys through the locked window. And remember, take a deep breath; it happens to everyone at some point!